"There's a high ropes course. They strap you into a harness but I think the risk is still pretty high that it will kill or severely maim you." "All we ask is that you 'challenge yourself.'" "It's all outdoors and in nature!" "Here, sign this waiver and fill out this extensive medical history form." "Today's forecast calls for a high of 93 degrees." "I hear they make you jump through flaming hula hoops over a pit of lava while large knives swing in front of you and the goat-man from Hercules screams insults at you from a lawn chair."
Even if one of those statements was never actually said (hint: it's the last one), it should be obvious to anyone who knows me why I went into this day more than a little concerned. You see, I do not do particularly well in nature settings. I also don't exactly excel at 99 out of any 100 physical and athletic endeavors you can throw at me. Should you need proof of this, simply look at a picture of me - particularly one taken last year during my brief encounter with pole vaulting. Though I hate to spoil the ending of a good story, I'll warn you now that the day turned out to be significantly less horrible than anticipated...but, as I predicted around the same time I predicted my death, it was still plenty ridiculous enough to merit this blog post.
My group's day at Manoventurehell began at the equestrian center. I was elated to hear that this would be my first stop of the day, since I figured my chance of dying from a slow-walking-pace ride on a horse would be pretty minimal. This assumption proved largely true, but if you think my horseback-riding days (okay...minutes) were uneventful, think again. My assignment to a horse the size of an F150 was my first concern. Said horse's inexplicable desire to walk only on the parts of the trail where low-hanging, thorny branches hit both him and me in the face every few feet was the next. Luckily, we managed to avoid the barbed-wire fence my horse seemed bent on walking three inches from. I think this is due in large part to my repeated attempts to logic with the horse. "Um, hello. Horse? I think maybe it might be a better idea to not walk next to that barbed wire. Wouldn't you like to walk over there where we won't be ripped to shreds by barbed wire? I certainly think you would" apparently always works. The most dangerous moment of horseback riding came when a large insect landed on the back of my head and, in my attempts to shake it off, I A) made the bug angry enough to bite me, B) almost definitely pulled a muscle in my neck, and C) came inches from falling off the horse - all at the same time. In all, though, this part of the day was really quite enjoyable.
I met our next station with a tad less elation than I had with the horses. As the Vision veterans had explained a few times, this next station basically consisted of a giant pole which you must climb, then jump off of. This station sounded suspiciously likely to kill me. Fortunately for me, my sub-section of the group avoided our seemingly imminent deaths for a while by heading first to the team-building obstacle course and low ropes course. The team obstacle course - which, to clarify, was less an obstacle course and more just a series of stumps and logs we had to get from one end of to the other without falling on the ground, but is a lot easier to describe as just "obstacle course" - taught me primarily that I am very bad at interpreting directions that are communicated without the use of spoken word. Of the three sections of the low ropes course that my sub-sub-group attempted, I managed to finish two without falling into a split and subsequently crying and refusing to try again. So I call that a success. Then came the suspiciously-deathy-sounding pole. I attempted to avoid the event altogether by politely allowing others to go first and hoping our time would run out. When time did not run out, it was pole-climbing time for Sarah. Something you should all probably know about me? As surprising as this may be, I am not good at climbing poles. Yes, there were step-like rung-y things (I'm good at adjectives) all the way up. No, this did not alleviate my inability to climb up a pole. I got to the point where the plastic steps turn to metal rungs and politely requested that the team holding up my harness please return me to the ground because I would not like to go any further, thank you. And by "politely requested...thank you," I actually mean that I shouted a string of angry demands that were apparently, blissfully interpreted as attempts at light-hearted humor and, on the way back down through the air, screamed at my boss - the man who brought us to Manoventurehell - that I hated him. Luckily, my boss (who, shortly thereafter, climbed up the pole using only one hand) realized that this particular outcry actually was meant to be a joke, because I like not being fired. So basically, the suspiciously-deathy-sounding pole was a success only in that I did not depart from it on a stretcher. Better than nothing.
To finish off the day, my group headed over to the rock-climbing/archery station. My sub-group began at the rock wall, which was surprisingly non-miserable. Now don't get me wrong, it's not like I got any more than 7 or so feet off the ground. I did, however, outsmart the system. After each of the six or so times that I fell (in hydraulics-controlled harness) off the wall, I stood frustrated at the bottom staring at the wall until eventually confronting Coach Matt about its myriad problems. I started with the dozens of spots where handholds were clearly missing, which, as I suspected, they do in fact move around just to mess with people. I finished by pointing out that about 3 out of 4 handholds on the "easy wall" - which I was obviously on, let's not get crazy - looked to be perfectly helpful, grab-able handholds had they not been attached to the wall at the strangest angles imaginable. Coach Matt then admitted that, as I suspected, those were, in fact, in wrong, and the part that you can clearly wrap your hand around should indeed be at the top of the handhold where your hand actually goes. I blame my relative failure on the rock wall on the faulty engineering and mischievous whims of Coach Matt.
The last stop of the day, archery, was far and away the best one. I vaguely remembered shooting a bow and arrow at 4-H Camp in my youth and distinctly remembered sucking at it, so I approached archery with some caution. Then came my turn at the lefty bow. As it turns out, I'm pretty freaking good at archery. Of the 15 arrows I shot (16 counting the one I accidentally stole from my neighbor - sorry Frank), only 3 landed in the bushes behind my target, which was significantly better than most people were doing. My best one landed well within the area our instructor had disturbingly designated as kill shot territory. Shooting the bow and arrow also made me feel like I was Katniss Everdeen, so even if I'd sucked, archery would've been a success for that and that alone. Clearly, as long as all my competitors jumped about a foot to the right of where they stood when I shot at them before my arrow reached them, my chances in the Hunger Games just became very good.
So the moral of the story is, I'm not dead. I survived Manoventurehell with nothing more than some serious neck pain from that stupid bug and, oh yeah, pretty much third-degree burns all over my body because I am an idiot and decided to wear a bro tank and only apply sunscreen once. This would certainly not have been my first choice on a list of ways to spend my Friday, but it definitely could have been worse. Mostly, I'm alive, so that's a good thing. I have callouses all over my hands, which gives me the deceptive effect of looking like I work hard at something. When it comes down to it, I faced nature head-on today. Tomorrow morning, when I wake up and will probably be unable to move for at least an hour, it will be official that nature won. But for now, I'm holding fast to the statement that today, the Domerberry met nature and almost kind of didn't totally lose.